ARL impresses participants at nation's biggest science fair
November 18, 2010
Nearly 2,000 children and adults visited the Army Research Laboratory's exhibit at the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival held on the National Mall Oct. 23-24.
ARL joined other Research, Dvelopment and Engineering Command organizations and about 500 exhibitors that supported the nation's largest science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach event.
Highlighting materials research with armor examples and cutting-edge shear thickening fluid research along with flexible display technology, ARL's exhibit captured the attentions of both young and old.
"Wow" and "How does it do that?" were common exclamations of the hundreds of people who held the green goo that demonstrated STFs, which are liquid materials that harden under pressure and then seemingly melt back into liquids.
Ashley Wade, outreach coordinator for the Army Research Office and a coordinator of RDECOM's involvement, said the festival's first-year effort came together quickly, and she expects it to improve next year.
"It's a great opportunity for us to reach out to the public and show them that the Army is doing some amazing, cutting-edge science and engineering and really give them an understanding of what we do, especially what we do to support the Soldier," she said.
Addressing the importance of STEM outreach, Wade was effusive.
"I've been doing STEM education for about two years. I meet people that are in the Army in all different labs, all different career fields, who all have a passion to educate the public for science and engineering," said Wade. "We're all concerned about scientific literacy of our nation. It's important for national defense."
RDECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Nick Justice attended the event along with the Honorable Zachary Lemnios, director for Defense Research and Engineering and member of the team responsible for coordinating DoD support for the festival.
Lemnios' office also manages STEM outreach for the DoD.
"I'm here this morning to take a good look at all these booths that are set up from the Department of Defense," Lemnios said. "It's really an opportunity for kids to see the future they have in science and technology, ways they can provide insight and expertise and protect our nation.
"There are things from body armor the Army's working on, to advanced robotics the Navy is working on, to flight simulators and robotics in all forms. It's just a great day. It's a way for kids to see what the future holds," he added.
The expo was the culmination of the two-week festival that began Oct. 10 with a concert by more than 200 children and adults at the University of Maryland at College Park, Md.
President Obama honored several groups of young scientists at the White House Science Fair Oct. 18, including "The Hardheads," national winners of the U.S. Army's eCybermission program, conducted annually by RDECOM. The Hardheads, from Mirman School in Los Angeles, presented their award-winning project - experiment on multiple materials for possible use in sports helmets - at the White House.
The expo featured more than 1,500 hands-on science activities and more than 75 performances on four stages in the Mall.
A grassroots collaboration of the nation's leading science organizations, the festival was hosted by an Honorary Congressional Committee with more than 100 members of Congress supporting the effort.